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June 24, 2008

EPA honors MSU professors with Green Chemistry Award

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Two Michigan State University professors have received national honors for their work that has provided significant innovations in pollution prevention in the United States. 

Chemistry professors Robert Maleczka and Milton Smith have earned the 2008 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

The two received the Academic Award for their work that resulted in a new environmentally friendly method for making complex compounds. Their discovery streamlines the manufacturing of chemical building blocks, eliminates the need for environment-threatening starting materials and significantly reduces the amounts of hazardous waste formerly associated with this process. 

Pharmaceuticals, pesticides and similar complex substances can now be manufactured with minimal waste and impact on the environment. 

“Our technology makes the process more efficient and produces only hydrogen gas as the byproduct, so it is a win-win for companies to save money and reduce their impact on the environment,” Smith said. 

Smith recently patented a method for creating boron compounds which condense drug-making processes. Building off this, Smith and Maleczka received $1.38 million through Michigan’s 21st Century Job Fund to increase production of the patented chemical compounds and advance the research to the marketplace. 

“This award validates our hard work and helps showcase a new, environmentally safe alternative that will greatly advance industry,” Maleczka said. “We’ve essentially developed a shortcut that eliminates the middlemen. However, in this case, the middlemen are hazardous chemical compounds.” 

“Collaboration is part of the fabric of MSU, and this award affirms our values as a land-grant university where we apply science and partnerships to achieve outcomes which will forever impact society,” said James Kirkpatrick, dean of the College of Natural Science. “This award recognizes a team effort that crosses many boundaries - from the research lab with our students and faculty to the funding from the 21st Century Jobs Fund to the patents and jobs that are a result of this reach.” 

The awards were presented today during an awards ceremony at the National Academy of Science in Washington, D.C. 

EPA's Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge promotes research and development of less-hazardous alternatives to existing technologies that reduce or eliminate waste, particularly hazardous waste, in industrial production. An independent panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society selected the winners from nearly 100 nominated technologies.

During the last 13 years, the winners' work has led to the elimination of more than 1.1 billion pounds of hazardous chemicals and solvents, more than 21 billion gallons of water, and nearly 400 million pounds of carbon dioxide. These benefits are in addition to significant energy and cost savings by the winners and their customers. 

For additional information, go to the EPA Web site.


Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.